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Rose Ruane ‘Birding’ (Book Review)

A novel that proves you can come of age at any age.

Lydia is a former teen pop starlet, now in her forties, and she is struggling – struggling to reconcile events in her past and find her reason for being in the present. Meanwhile, Joyce is questioning her own existence, living with an overbearing mother in the kind of set-up that would not be out of place in a Maysles brothers documentary. The paths of these two very different women will cross on the promenade as waves swell and birds squawk.

Set in a seaside town that hope forgot, Rose Ruane’s second novel is like a memory box filled with sepia Polaroids and letters and trinkets. It inhabits a world of forgotten nostalgia (you can almost taste the sea salt and sticks of rock), greyscale and stark before the technicolour bursts through: often funny, more often heartbreaking, but ultimately, cosmically hopeful.

Ruane’s deftness in the details brings relatability and heart to characters who may have been considered high-concept or farcical in another author’s hands. Birding addresses myriad topics between its pages – the Me Too movement, abuse, queerness, and self-love – but always remains loyal to the two central characters.

There were parts of this novel where I cringed, guffawed, and questioned pieces of my own life – genuinely, by the end I wanted to slap and cuddle my past self. Simultaneously.

Birding is a novel for anyone who has ever asked themselves, ‘who am I?’ or ‘am I enough?’.

I will always encourage people to read, read, read, but if you can only fit one book in this summer – make it Birding.


Birding is out now, published by Corsair. Buy here.

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